Shelf Centered

A blog about books & culture from the librarians who love them

120 years of a Wilmette Library

This month marks the 120th anniversary of the first library building in Wilmette! The first library building opened on July 6, 1901, and was located on the corner of Wilmette and Central Avenues. 

First library association started in Wilmette in December 1880. Several associations organized fee-based small libraries for the next 20 years, until a push for a free public library came in 1900. In that year, taxpayers approved a referendum to establish a free public library by a vote of 62 to 52. A $2 million tax issue was authorized. In April 1901, the first six Wilmette Library Directors were elected. The library was moved to rented space in the rear of Wilmette Lumber Company on Central Ave. The Elmwood Library Association, which was originally established in 1892, loaned 1,000 of its books to the new library. 

First library building in Wilmette

The first library building in Wilmette opened on July 6, 1901. This wooden frame building would house 1,347 books. During the first year of its operation, the library registered more than 500 borrowers and circulated more than 9,000 volumes. This building would be used as the library until 1905, when the new "Carnegie" library building was completed and opened to the public. 

Interested in reading more about the history of the Wilmette Public Library? View a timeline of library history here, or visit our Local History page to see more historical photographs and documents! 

Written by EvaAnne Johnson, Genealogy and Local History Librarian

What We're Reading - May 19

what were reading wednesday block 01 01Hello! Here's what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading lately. This week we feature a debut YA novel about a Lipan Apache protagonist who solves a murder in a magical America; a book on the climate crisis from a climatologist and geophysicist; a historical fiction audiobook set in WWII Italy; the third book in an incisive political biography series about Lyndon Johnson, again in audiobook format; and a fictionalized book about Van Gogh's final days. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

elatsoeTitle: Elatsoe
Author: Darcie Little Badger
Reader: Krista H., Teen Librarian

Elatsoe is set in an recognizable but slightly different contemporary America, where magic and magical beings are commonplace. People can travel by Fairy Ring (it’s regulated); vampires have rights (and “old age” homes); and magic can be studied in university. Ellie, the asexual Lipan Apache protagonist, has inherited her Six-Great-Grandmother’s spirit-calling abilities. While calling on human ghosts is forbidden, Ellie’s deceased dog Kirby is her devoted ghost companion and she practices her powers by trying to raise the spirits of fossils just to see if it’s possible. When Ellie's cousin Trevor dies, his spirits visits her to tell her he was murdered, and Ellie is determined to solve this crime, with the help of numerous family and friends, colorful side characters who feel equally as real as Ellie. Little Badger’s world-building is a fascinating blend of small-town realism, folklore and magic from a variety of cultures and Indiginous traditions, and spooky near-horror. It’s entirely different, yet works so well without a ton of info-dumping. I loved it!


climate warTitle: The New Climate War - The Fight to Take Back Our Planet
Author: Michael E. Mann
Reader: Suzanne A., Adult Services Librarian

I am recommending The New Climate War: the Fight to Take Back our Planet by Michael Mann. He is a scientist who is very concerned about our climate crisis. He has been on PBS a couple times recently. He analyzes groups with varying points of view. He says that governments, corporations as well as individuals need to fight for our planet. Regardless of whether you agree with him, you will learn a lot from reading this. He explains the politics and the science well.


eternalTitle: Eternal - a novel
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Audiobook Narrators: Cassandra CampbellEdoardo BalleriniLisa Scottoline

Reader: Jennifer K., Adult Services Librarian

Lisa Scottoline's newest novel, Eternal, takes place during Fascist rule and the outbreak of WWII in Italy. It is historical fiction that offers the beauty of Rome including its food, architecture, ancient history as well as the atrocities the city suffered during the 1930's and 40's. The reader follows three close friends and witnesses how their lives and relationships are influenced in a broken country they love. So many historical fiction novels centered around WWII focus on France. Italy's tale is just as captivating and heartbreaking. The audio version is narrated by Scottoline, Cassandra Campbell and Edoardo Ballerini. Italian pronunciations add pleasing musicality to the reading. (Jennifer got this digital audiobook through the Digital Library of Illinois' Libby app!)


lyndon johnsonTitle: The Years of Lyndon Johnson - Master of the Senate
Author: Robert A. Caro
Audiobook Narrator: Grover Gardner

Reader: John A., Adult Services Librarian

I'm taking a break from reading after doing The Talented Mr. Ripley for the Classics & Contemporary book club discussion last week (which was a lot of fun), so I'm now listening to this 2002 audiobook - available through Libby. I finished the print version last year, but wanted to listen to it as well as it was a very fascinating book - indeed, the whole series is incredibly well-researched and told in a compelling narrative voice, well-suited to the audio format, almost akin to a long-form podcast. Master of the Senate looks at Lyndon Johnson's controversial election to the Senate in 1947 through his nomination as the Democratic nominee for Vice President to John F. Kennedy. Caro details how LBJ assiduously studied his Senate colleagues and manipulated colleagues from across the political spectrum, from the arch-segregationist Richard B. Russell, Jr. to the liberal firebrand Hubert H. Humphrey in the acquisition of power - letting the two factions believe he was firmly on their side and cultivating deep personal relationships while developing his own notions of civil rights and economic equality. By hook and crook, LBJ would transform the previously moribund position of Senate Majority Leader into one of power and prestige, ultimately to abandon his perch for the Vice Presidency and initial humiliation during the Kennedy years.


vangoghTitle: Leaving Van Gogh
Author: Carol Wallace
Reader: Diane d.S, Youth Services Librarian

LOVED it! Got it from our adult fiction collection. I absolutely loved this fictional take on Van Gogh's last months seen through the eyes of Van Gogh's last physician Dr. Gachet. The book begs the question, did Van Gogh act alone in his final days leading to suicide?

What We're Reading - May 5

what were reading wednesday block 01 01Hello! Here's what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading lately. This week we feature two lengthier reviews: one of a favorite exercise book (and a plug for using library resources) and one advocating reading and listening to more than one book at a time. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinoissusan3

Title:  Fitness for Everyone: 50 Exercises for Every Type of Body
Author:  Louise Green
Reader:  Susan K-T., Youth Services Librarian

I love this exercise book!  Why?  Because it includes all the fitness basics: upper body and core, lower body and cardio, and stretch and balance with many terrific color photos of people of various genders, ages, weights, shapes, even including people of differing abilities! There are great explanations of fitness equipment, and most importantly, how to make fitness accessible for everyone!  The author's motto is to embrace the body you have.

Did you know that our library contains not only many various fitness books, but also current and older DVD's on the topics of fitness such as zumba, yoga, aerobics, tai chi, bootcamp, cardio, Qigong, and more that you can check out!  You can even explore exercise on ebooks.

Title: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
Title: The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (audiobook read by John Lee)
Reader: John A., Business Librarian

pillarsI always seem to somehow have both a print book and an audiobook going at the same time. Right now I'm reading Ken Follett's 'Pillars of the Earth' (1989) on my Nook, and listening to Erik Larson's 'The Splendid and the Vile' (2020). 

I started 'Pillars' because my wife, who is a longtime bookstore manager, recommended it to me when I expressed frustration at the density of Umberto Eco's 'The Name of the Rose' (1983).  I found Eco's famous novel beautifully written, but found myself constantly looking up various Latin phrases and anachronistic terms. While 'Pillars' deals with a similar time period (13th century) and monastic settings, it is also very much a thriller along the lines of Follett's other books. Indeed it seems to have as many major plot twists and major catastrophic events as the early seasons of Game of Thrones (I've not read the books yet).  Now that I am almost done, I am beginning to feel the same kind of void that appeared when I finished GoT. splendid

As for 'The Splendid and the Vile,' I chose it more because I enjoy Erik Larson's approach to historical storytelling than interest in Churchill. The war-time Prime Minister has so many biographies written about (and by) him that I normally assume everything that can be said about the man likely already has been said. Larson's latest book doesn't disappoint; along the lines of his 2011 book 'In the Garden of Beasts,' he takes a larger look at the Churchill family as well as the personalities he brought into the government, depicting their public and private lives.  The book paints a vivid picture of life in Britain during the first years of war prior to America's entry into the conflict. 

What We're Reading - April 21

what were reading wednesday banner 01 01

Hello! Here's what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading lately. This week we feature a book that is quickly becoming a staff favorite; a cute children's graphic novel about pet allergies; a middle-grade novel about moving to a new country and fitting in without losing your heritage; a quirky, character-driven novel about a hostage situation; and a bonus music recommendation for a popular Icelandic artist. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

sherirTitle: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Reader: Sheri R., Youth Services Librarian

I'm reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, who is now the first-round choice for my imaginary literary dinner party. I  got started on his books with How to Stop Time, which was a WPL book club book. Then I went on to the humans and other adult and children’s books he’s written. I love the way his character are searching for a way to stay human, and open, and even a bit raw, but to embrace the whole experiences of existence. And he’s funny, too. I end up spamming my friends with quotes when I read him. Try ANYTHING he writes! (This one has been making the rounds among our staff. Read the thoughts of two other staff members here.)


allergicTitle: Allergic
Author: Megan Wagner Lloyd
Reader: Alice J., Youth Services Librarian

I just finished this cute new graphic novel for middle grades. Ten year old Maggie is about to adopt a dog when she out that she's allergic. Determined to get a pet, she tries a few others while adjusting to allergy shots, making friends at a new school and the new baby in the family.


yearflewTitle: The Year I Flew Away
Author: Lawrence Wright
Reader: Jennifer L., Youth Services Librarian

In 1985, Gabrielle is excitedly moving from Haiti to America for achieve her family's hope of her education and success for her future. She starts to live with her uncle's family in Brooklyn, New York. She starts new school and it is not easy being 10-year-old  and learning new language and get along with other kids. One day, a witch offers her to give ability to speak English well, and she accepts it. Soon, she realizes she is losing important things in her life to gain new things. Now, she has to figure out ways to save what she is losing by confronting the evil witch.


anxiousTitle: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Reader: Nancy W., Adult Services Librarian

Backman returns to his forte of quirky and challenged yet charming people.  A disparate group find themselves held hostage while at an apartment viewing by a most unlikely and empathetic bank robber.  Over the course of the afternoon the stories and anxieties of the police officers and hostages come out and connections and realizations are made.   You will find yourself laughing out loud and being surprised in this alternately really funny and really sad novel.  You will miss the characters after you finish.


sigurrosBONUS: Media Recommendation!
Title: Odin's Raven Magic

Author: Sigur Rós
Reader: Jessica T., Cataloging Librarian

Sigur Rós is a post-rock band from Reykjavik, Iceland (!). This 2020 album, Odin’s Raven Magic, is an orchestral work set to a 17th century Icelandic poem. Sure to appeal to both classical and rock fans alike, it makes for fantastic work-from-home music. This unique work is well worth a listen.

What We're Reading - April 7

what were reading wednesday banner 01 01kellerman

Hello! Here's what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading lately. This week we feature a cold case mystery novel, a book about caring for your house plants, a fascinating novel about a (fictional) global pandemic, an autobiography of a controversial star, and a deep dive into something we all do and yet take for granted: breathing. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

Title: Serpentine
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Reader: Jennifer B., Creative Experiences Coordinator

Jonathan Kellerman is my favorite crime fiction/ mystery author, especially his series featuring psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware & LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis. In this book, the detective duo investigate a cold case-- the death of a mysterious woman found with a bullet in her head in a torched Cadillac that has overturned on infamously treacherous Mulholland Drive.


houseplantsTitle: Houseplants for all: How to Fill Any Home with Happy Plants
Author: Danae Horst
Reader: Eva J., Adult Services Librarian

Our home was filled with houseplants before, and it seems like the number of plants has doubled in the past year! While I've been spending a lot of time at home with my plants (and my cat!), this lovely little book about caring for those houseplants has been enjoyable and easy to read and has helped me understand my plants better. Even if you haven't had luck with houseplants before, I recommend giving this little guide a try!


endofoctoberTitle: End of October
Author: Lawrence Wright
Reader: Jill M., Adult Services Manager

If you're like me and are comforted by diving into what scares you as opposed to turning in the other direction, then this book is for you!  It's about a global pandemic (amazingly he wrote this just before Covid) and is written with such beauty, heart and depth.  It's also a fascinating story whose backbone is situated in reality: author Wright looks at medicine, science and pandemics of the past to construct his tale, making you often wonder if the story is non-fiction.  It's extremely well-written, detailed, graphic and is just completely deftly written by someone who cares about his characters.  I loved the audiobook, which I downloaded from Libby.  I could not stop listening. (Listen-alike: I also recommend the two episodes of This Podcast Will Kill You on the Bubonic Plague.)


aproposTitle: Apropos of Nothing
Author: Woody Allen
Reader: Ted R., Adult Services Librarian

Although Woody Allen is controversial these days, I decided to read this 2020 autobiography to balance with the HBO documentary "Allen v. Farrow" which includes a lot of discussion with Dylan Farrow about her sexual abuse allegations against Allen.  Whether you love or hate Woody, or have taken sides on the abuse issue, much of this book has the Woody humor that you know from his comedies.  Despite the controversy, I found myself laughing at much of the typical Woody humor.  There is also a lot of carping about Mia and others regarding the abuse allegations.  This book is not for everyone, but it's a fascinating look at the movie-making process for his many movies and the people and situations he met along the way.  


breathTitle: Breath: The Science of a Lost Art
Author: James Nestor
Reader: Jenny K., Adult Services Manager

This book explores the evolution of human breath throughout history. Even though we breathe (inhale and exhale) approximately 25,000 times daily, most of us aren't doing it correctly and so compromise our physical and mental well-being. Follow Nestor as he himself undergoes a study of his own breath and read how he fixes it to improve his health. Our immune system, athletic performance, spine, mouth, internal organs... are all influenced by the fascinating mechanical inhale and exhale. Read this book and never breathe the same way again.


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